Under 18 Centenary Shield
Scotland Under 18s vs England Under 18s
Scotland’s Under 18 schoolboys’ side (Sponsored by Lloyds TSB Scotland) shared the SAFIB Centenary Shield with Northern Ireland, courtesy of a 1-0 victory over England in their final match by virtue of a late Stuart Love strike.
The match was played courtesy of Inverness Caledonian Thistle Football Club at their Tulloch Caledonian Stadium. An enthusiastic crowd contained dignitaries with affiliations to either side: Scottish F.A. Vice-President Campbell Ogilvie sat not too far from 77 times capped former England captain Terry Butcher, who is of course manager at the local SPL club. Northern Ireland Schools’ team manager Bob Ramsey attended to monitor proceedings in the knowledge that a draw would see the Ulstermen win the Shield outright, whilst a Scottish victory would allow Scotland to share the award with his men. An English victory in Inverness would see all Northern Irish eyes focused south of the border next week in the hope that their neighbours could avoid defeat in Dublin to allow the trophy to go to Belfast for the next twelve months. These permutations helped the air of anticipation, and the visiting Sky Sports’ cameras added to the razzmatazz.
England kicked off on a cool Highland evening, and started brightly: Dean Shaw in the Scottish goal had to act smartly to smother Connor Thompson’s cross as Fabio De Abreu looked to capitalise.
The visitors then went even closer in the 5th minute. Excellent interplay between Scott Cheetham and full-back Tom Boayke allowed the defender to take possession of the ball in an advanced position. He held off three challenges before sliding an inch-perfect pass to De Abreu. As Shaw charged from his line, the forward shot early towards the near post, but to Scottish relief and English dismay the ball rebounded from the upright and tricked out of play for a goal-kick.
Boayke – a Manchester City target – had started very brightly, and was very keen to play attacking football at every opportunity. He was involved again in the 7th minute, this time requiring treatment after a scything challenge from Scottish captain Alan Urquhart. The central midfield man made a more aesthetic contribution two minutes later, when he shot over the bar as the ball fell to him on the edge of the area after enterprising play between Lewis Milton and Kieran Johnston earned the home side a corner kick.
Milton again forced the concession of a corner in the tenth minute of play, as he combined well with another of his colleagues – Owen Ronald – on the right hand side. Central defender Tom O’Ware headed narrowly wide from Jordan Burns’ in-swinging delivery.
After a frantic opening, the match was beginning to settle. England again struck the woodwork in the 12th minute. Enterprising play by the dangerous De Abreu set Jack Sherrat free on the left hand side. His near post cross was met 12 yards out with a firm header by Alex Meaney who had supported his forwards well. The attempt looked as if it would nestle in the bottom of the net with Shaw beaten, but it cannoned back off the post to safety.
Just as it appeared that England were about to grasp the ascendency, the Scots started to knock the ball around very effectively in the middle, with captain Urquhart proving a stylish fulcrum. Indeed, Scotland dominated the next 20 minutes of the match with a series of moves threatening the English goal.
The tone was set in the 14th minute, when a fine passing move between Alan Lawson, Ciaran Johnston, Michael Lennox and Jordan Burns almost created some joy for Scotland as play swept from the left side of the field to Lewis Milton on the right. Boakye proved that he could defend as well as attack by firmly heading the Scotland wide-man’s cross clear. The impressive English full-back was on his guard once more in the 17th minute as he nodded Nicholas Devlin’s cross clear following quick offensive play by Urquhart and Milton. A minute later Thompson had to head clear beneath his own cross-bar after Johnston knocked a 45 yard diagonal Lennox free-kick back towards the target.
Scotland’s forward movements were now incessant. Milton was a consistent thorn in the English flesh as he was continually sought by the rest of the Scottish midfield, particularly the elegant Urquhart. Numerous corners were won, whilst Johnston went close on two occasions. Firstly he headed narrowly over from Milton’s cross in the 21st minute. Two minutes later the striker dispossessed English captain Jamie Summers as the pair pursued Lennox’s lofted pass. As Johnston shaped to shoot, an excellent recovery tackle scrambled the ball out for a corner which was easily repelled by the English defence. The respite was only temporary, as Devlin set Johnston free again. The English keeper Hart saved Johnston’s shot low to his right.
Still Scotland surged forward. The perennially involved Johnston was set free in the box by the imperious Urquhart after Lawson, Lennox and Burns had combined to good effect to feed their captain. Joshua White was alert to the danger, and hurriedly cleared. White earned his stripes in the 32nd minute as he headed clear following a weak Hart clearance which was nodded forward towards Johnston by Jordan Burns.
The Dark Blues’ best moment of the half came in the following minute. Burns picked up the ball midway into the English half on the left flank. He fed the ball infield to his skipper. Twenty-five yards out Urquhart allowed the perfectly waited pass to run across his body onto his right foot before blasting a vicious effort goalwards. The ball swerved narrowly over Hart’s crossbar: had it rippled the net it would surely have been a contender for the watching Sky Sports’ cameras’ ‘Goal of the Week’ selection.
In face of this vibrant Scottish play, England attempted to end the half on a high note. A quickly taken free-kick between Thompson and Meaney near the Scots’ left corner flag necessitated a scrambled clearance from Clark. With four minutes until the interval, Scottish goalkeeper Shaw had to be innovative – chasing his own fisted clearance outside the area to hoof clear. As Josh Glover returned the ball, Jordan Ayris was adjudged narrowly offside in a dangerous position in the penalty area.
The half ended with two of the most impressive performers involved again: Boayke clearing from Johnston’s run and cross as Owen Ronald looked to profit.
Half Time: Scotland Under 18s 0-0 England Under 18s
Ronald’s involvement in the 43rd minute would prove to be his last, as Scottish manager Stewart Taylor introduced Stuart Love to replace his number 10; with Ronald possibly feeling some effects of the collar-bone injury which has blighted his season. Love was immediately involved: forcing a save from goalkeeper Hart after being fed by the hard-working Johnston.
In the 7th minute of the second half, England had perhaps the chance of the match, but could not hit the target. Thompson made a strong run down the right hand side, taking on three men before feeding De Abreu inside the area. The tall forward showed excellent awareness to cross for the unmarked Jack Sherratt 8 yards out. He followed the text book by heading the ball back in the direction it had come from. Unfortunately for England, his effort sailed past the post. He possibly could have controlled the ball on his chest, such was the time afforded to him as the Scottish defenders had all been sucked to the other side of the box by the potency of Thompson’s run.
Scotland’s Johnston had the next opportunity. England goalkeeper Hart was a-flutter at a long cross pumped into his box by Lawson. It fell to the striker at an awkward height, but he scoped his hooked shot narrowly over the crossbar. Hart’s anxiousness was perhaps indicative of the tension on the field as both sides were aware of what was at stake. A minute later, such desire cost England an opening goal as centre-halves Summers and White distracted one another as a very dangerous free-kick was drilled into the Scottish area by Thompson. There may have been a little push on Scotland’s Clark, but the game re-started with a goal-kick – suggesting that the officials had not noticed the offence.
Johnston had an action-packed 58th minute. His drilled low shot was superbly blocked by White – possibly preventing a goal in the process. He then challenged England captain Summers for a high ball just outside the area. Johnston looked to have leapt late, and was accidentally caught by his opponent as the centre-half landed. This would be the forward’s last involvement in a match which had been lit up by his energy, work-rate and running power.
The game was stopped for around 5 minutes and Scottish coach Taylor made two substitutions: Michael Scott replaced the unfortunate Johnston, whilst Kieran Kennedy replaced Burns on the right flank. The lengthy break possibly affected the rhythm of the match, as it struggled to live up to the barnstorming quality of the opening 45 minutes, although the impressive Boakye caused panic in the Scottish box in the 65th minute forcing Clark to hurriedly clear in the Scottish area with De Abreu close by.
Love was again involved in the 69th minute, as he shot narrowly past the near post after Devlin’s free-kick landed at his feet 7 yards out. A minute later Scotland were rescued by the goal-frame yet again: Connor Thompson’s speculative 45 yard free-kick rebounding from the crossbar.
The 71st minute saw more refereeing controversy; a recurring theme in Scotland this season. Devlin burst clear on the Scottish right and surged towards the penalty area whilst involved in a wrestling match with Alex Meaney. Devlin landed in the area, and despite some optimistic penalty calls, the majority of the crowd expected a Scottish free-kick in a dangerous area outside the box, particularly as the near-side linesman Jim Lyon had instantly raised his flag. Astonishingly, the otherwise excellent Mr. Northcroft yellow carded Devlin and awarded the visitors a free-kick! Further consultation with Mr. Lyon saw the correct decision being awarded, and it is to the referee’s credit that this communication took place, even though Scotland squandered the subsequent award by meekly striking it into the defensive wall.
The pace of the match started to quicken again: Michael Scott outpaced White to bear down on goal, but shot into the side netting. Play promptly moved to the other end and a superb advantage played by the referee allowed De Abreu to feed Sherratt on the right hand side of the Scottish box. Only an excellent last-gasp challenge by Alan Lawson averted the opening goal.
As the match entered the last quarter of a hour play became increasingly stretched: partly because of the occasion and partly owing to the desire of the players and coaches to snatch a late winner. Sherratt had the ball in the back of the net in 76 minutes, but it was ruled out for offside. This would prove to be his last involvement as he was replaced by Jonnie Evans a minute later. Evans was involved in a fine move almost immediately, combining with Meaney, Thompson and De Abreu, and the resultant strike from 30 yards was deflected out for a corner kick.
The resultant corner kick fell to the increasingly influential Meaney, 16 yards out who shot at goal. This strike was deflected wide by Ayris from 4 yards, but he had been adjudged to have been standing in an offside position whilst doing so. England continued to look to gain the advantage. Meaney played an excellent pass to Thompson who advanced down the English right. His cross was cut out by Lawson at the expense of a corner. This delivery was superbly gathered by Shaw with two much taller opponents scenting blood.
It appeared that Northern Ireland would be the chief beneficiaries of this entertaining no-score draw. With three minutes to go, Urquhart lofted a pass towards the edge of the English area. Connor Thompson rose to nod the ball back to goalkeeper Hart. His header was slightly misdirected, and fell to Michael Scott to the left of the goal. His driven cutback was side-footed into the corner of the net from six yards out by a delighted Stuart Love. Scotland had broken the deadlock, and the ecstasy was tangible in the stand.
Both coaches made alterations following this strike: Connaire Connelly replaced Jordan Burns for Scotland, whilst with a minute to go in normal time, England coach Andy Williams replaced De Abreu and Thompson with Wood and Moyo. These changes proved to no avail, and, despite the scare of there being six minutes of injury time Scotland retained possession well to win the inaugural Lloyds TSB Trophy, (which Scotland and England will compete for on an annual basis) as well as sharing the 2011 SAFIB Centenary Shield.
A delighted Scottish squad were then presented with their international caps in front of adoring parents and supporters before the 2011 squad dispersed for the final time, as joint champions.
Full Time: Scotland Under 18s 1-0 England Under 18s
Scotland: Dean Shaw, Nicholas Devlin, Alan Lawson, Jamie Clark, Tom O’Ware, Michael Lennox, Lewis Milton (Sub Kieran Kennedy 59 minutes), Alan Urquhart, Ciaran Johnston (Scott, 59), Ronald (Love, 45), Jordan Burns (Connelly, 87) Unused subs: Connor Shaw, Alan Duff, Jack Guthrie.
England: Hart, Boakye, Glover, Summers, White, Ayris, De Abreu (Wood 89), Thompson Moyo 89), Sheratt (Evans 78), Cheetham, Meaney.